Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Treachery - Part Eleven
"How many of these estates are there?" Darcy asked curiously.
"Too many," Mareian and Ricky chimed together.
The shadow Uni gave them an odd look. "Do they
do that often?" he asked Jeran.
"Yes," the Lupe said. "I'm not entirely sure
which one is the worst influence on the other."
Darcy and Jeran had just started working together,
after the retirement of Jeran's former mount, Rienzi. He was still adjusting
to castle life, and his partners laid back personality. At least the shadow
Uni was relaxing from the extreme formality he'd used at the beginning, much
to Jeran's relief. Few things got on his nerves more than the words 'My Lord'
Jeran had worked with Rienzi ever since he was
a squire, and he couldn't begrudge the older Uni's desire to retire and spend
more time with his grandfoals. It still didn't make getting used to a new partner
any easier. Rienzi and he had known what each other were thinking nearly all
the time, now he had to remind himself to explain things to Darcy.
"Don't turn your head and look," Mareian said
softly, "but there's smoke between those trees on our left."
"That's the old Innatius Barony," Jeran commented
"Sir Innatious is only a Baron?" Ricky asked
in surprise. "I thought he was a higher noble than that, the way he goes on
about nobles' rights and peasants' responsibility all the time."
"That's the way it usually works," Marian said
dryly. "Those with lower rank usually are the ones who cling to the system the
most. Then you get people like Jeran, who know what a load of Crokabek droppings
the whole thing is, mostly because they're the ones on the top."
"Was that a compliment, or an insult?" Jeran
asked, sending Mareian a long look.
"Darcy," Ricky said to the shadow Uni, "remind
me to mark this day down."
Darcy gave the spotted Uni a confused look. "Why?"
"Because I think that was the first time I've
ever heard her compliment anyone."
"Do you mind?" the Lupess snapped.
Jeran snorted softly at her annoyed tone. "Let's
continue to Cogham," he said, "and see if we can find signs of life in any of
the other estates on the way."
"Do you really think he's stupid enough to burn
a fire and leave smoke?" Mareian asked. "He could be sitting in any of them
and we could go right past him."
"I don't think the idea of not having a fire
would occur to him," Jeran answered. "Gelerts have short fur with practically
no undercoat, and he's working with a Nimmo and a Krawk, neither of which do
well in cold weather. And if anyone did see him going into the buildings, not
lighting a fire would strike them as odd."
"True," she conceded.
None of the estates the rest of the way to Cogham
showed any sign of life. "So what's the plan," Mareian muttered to Jeran as
they rode into Cogham proper.
"Grab a bite to eat, head back to the castle,
grab some knights, and arrest Jasagh."
"I just love his plans," Ricky said blithely.
"They're so intricate and full of details."
"I like simple," Jeran argued. "It means less
people mess up."
"Are they always like this?" Darcy asked Mareian.
The pirate Lupess, however, was laughing too hard to answer.
Jasagh cursed the cold that seeped from the snowy
outside into the ruin of a house he was living in. A short thaw had flooded
him out of the caves he had been using. Scowling, he added another log to the
fire. He dared not use magic to warm the creaking house, not after all the magic
he'd used during the night before. It would beam like a beacon if anyone was
Right now, though, Jasagh had bigger problems
than just the cold. He hadn't had word from Athless, and was hesitant to move
forward with his plans without hearing from him. The red Draik was supposed
to report to him earlier in the morning, but had never showed up. While Jasagh
was sure of the squire's loyalty to him, the squire was still under the authority
of his Knight-Master. Jasagh hoped the Knight hadn't noticed something odd about
his squire and banned him from leaving the castle; that would put a huge knot
into his plans.
What Jasagh really needed was some leverage against
that stupid Champion. Unfortunately, easy to exploit weaknesses were something
the Lupe was in short supply of; personal danger meant little to him, as did
money, prestige, or power.
Jasagh also hesitated moving against Jeran's
sister, Lisha. She was a powerful sorceress in her own right, and Jasagh wasn't
entirely sure who would win if he challenged her. Jeran would probably just
laugh if Jasagh threatened her, and let her take care of herself.
Furrowing his brow, Jasagh remembered Jeran's
nightmare from the night before. The seed of an idea began to grow in his mind;
perhaps there was a way to get to Jeran after all.
Twelve knights, Jeran decided, should be plenty
to deal with Jasagh and his two known henchmen. Adding their mounts, it meant
twenty four bodies, enough to deal with any extra aid the royal Gelert may have
they didn't know about. Getting the knights ready was easy; convincing Mareian
that she didn't need to come along as well was going to be the hard part.
"Why not?" the pirate Lupess demanded, crossing
her arms and glaring up at him.
Jeran sighed; there was no way she was going
to make this easy on him. "For two reasons. One, Jasagh has already shown too
much interest in you for my comfort. Two, you have a bad record of getting hurt
around him, and I don't want to patch you up again."
"I can fight," she argued, pinning her black
tipped ears back in anger.
Remembering his dream, he shuddered slightly.
"I know you can," he admitted softly, "but I can't if you're there."
Amazingly enough, that argument worked; her hazel
eyes softened and her ears relaxed into a much more friendly position. "Be careful,"
she said. "I don't want to have to come rescue you."
Jeran barked a short laugh as he climbed onto
Darcy. "I'll do my best."
Darcy tossed his head in anticipation. "Are we
just going to stand here and chat all night, or are we doing to actually go
and do something?" he demanded. Yeah, Darcy was getting a lot less formal as
he was getting to know Jeran better.
Jeran glanced around to make sure everyone was
ready, "Alright Darcy, let's go."
Now that they knew where they were going, the
trip to the old Innatius Barony took much less time. To be on the safe side,
though, Jeran led his knights though a slightly longer way where they'd be under
more cover. The last thing he wanted was Jasagh getting advance warning of them
coming and disappearing again. The royal Gelert was nearly as good as a Symol
at going underground.
Sending half of his knights to cover the side
and back entrances of the manor house, Jeran and his knights quickly winnowed
though the house, until they narrowed down the rooms Jasagh could be in to the
Gesturing for Sir Njall and Sir Lawrence to follow
him, Jeran cautiously opened the door to the kitchen.
"Sir Jeran," Jasagh's husky voice greeted, "you
took longer than I expected." The red flare from the ring, however, told
Jeran that Jasagh was lying, he had not expected him here. Judging from
the Gelert's smug expression, he either thought he had an ace in the hole to
get out of his predicament, or was a master bluffer. Jeran didn't put either
one past him.
"I wouldn't come any closer if I were you," Jasagh
"Why not?" The muffled sound of a woman furiously
cursing answered Jeran's question for him. Mareian, Jeran thought with
a sinking feeling, somehow he got Mareian..
Jasagh tilted his head towards the pantry and
spoke rapidly in a language Jeran couldn't understand. The wooden door creaked
open, and the blue Krawk Mareian had described stepped out; hauling a very familiar
pirate Lupess with him, a dagger pressed up against her throat to keep her from
struggling too hard.
"Sorry, Jeran," Mareian whispered.
What in the world did she have to apologize for?
He should have made better care to keep her safe. But that wasn't exactly the
kind of discussion he needed to have with Jasagh watching. Jeran needed information,
like where the other henchman was.
"The Nimmo?" he asked.
A flicker of smugness flashed across her steel
colored face. "Still in the castle; he got a little too attached to my dagger.
Inseparable, you might say."
The Krawk must have figured out what they were
talking about, because he glowered and tightened his grip on Mareian, causing
her to hiss in pain. Jasagh barked a short, incomprehensible order to him, and
the Krawk drug Mareian closer to the royal Gelert.
"Now that you know the stakes," Jasagh placed
a protective hand on Mareian's shoulder, "why don't you send your two companions
away so we can talk."
Jeran hesitated; this was ridiculous, he had
this building full of knights, Jasagh completely surrounded, and the Gelert
was trying to give him terms?
"I advise you to make up your mind quickly,"
Jasagh growled. The Krawk's dagger pressed tighter against Mareian's silver
throat; a small drop of crimson was all it took for Jeran go make up his mind.
"Go," Jeran growled to the two knights behind
him, "guard the door."
"See?" Jasagh said, "I knew you were a reasonable
man. And since we're going to talk like two reasonable men, you don't need to
be holding that sword. It really belongs on the floor."
Jeran actually didn't mind putting down his sword,
it was too long to use very well in such a cramped room, and him without it
would lull the Gelert into a false sense of security. Very deliberately, without
taking his eyes from the Gelert, Jeran knelt and placed his sword on the floor.
The fire in the kitchen's hearth caught the gold in his ring and reflected the
light across the kitchen.
Jasagh stiffened. "That ring," he hissed, "where
did you get it?"
At least Jeran could answer that honestly. "Illusen
the earth Faerie."
"It belonged to my mother," the royal Gelert
snapped. "Give it to me."
To be continued...